Who Is Aidan On 'House Of Cards'? Discovering Pollyhop Was Only 1 Aspect Of His Job
Over the course of its four seasons and 52 "chapters," Netflix's House Of Cards has had no lack of shadowy power players. From politicians to journalists, from consultants to authors, from lawyers to generals, the fictional Washington, D.C. (much like the real one) is stuffed with people all trying to get ahead at the expense of everyone else. Season 4 of the political thriller brought plenty new players to the table, including Cicely Tyson's Congresswoman Doris Jones, Neve Campbell's campaign manager LeAnn Harvey, and Joel Kinnaman's Republican presidential candidate Will Conway. But perhaps none of these new players is more obscure — or more outright strange — than the orchid-loving, naked-dancing data scientist played by The Comeback's Damian Young. But just who is Aidan MacAllan on House Of Cards , and why is he so important to the story?
Before we can understand exactly why Aidan is important, we have to understand what he does. "Data scientist" may sound like a fake career that a gaggle of self-serious millennials made up… but, according to the Harvard Business Review, it is actually "The Sexiest Job Of The 21st Century." In a 2012 article about the burgeoning field of data science (a term not even coined until 2008), the HBR explained that a data scientist is, "a high-ranking professional with the training and curiosity to make discoveries in the world of big data." Sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo, huh? Here's a slightly more in-depth explanation:
More than anything, what data scientists do is make discoveries while swimming in data. It’s their preferred method of navigating the world around them. At ease in the digital realm, they are able to bring structure to large quantities of formless data and make analysis possible. They identify rich data sources, join them with other, potentially incomplete data sources, and clean the resulting set. In a competitive landscape where challenges keep changing and data never stop flowing, data scientists help decision makers shift from ad hoc analysis to an ongoing conversation with data.
(Interestingly, it is data science that helped Netflix create House Of Cards in the first place, according to The New York Times, letting them craft a show they knew their subscribers would like based on their knowledge of their users' likes, dislikes, and streaming history.)
So now that we know what Aidan does as a data scientist, we can talk about why he's so important to House Of Cards. A personal friend of LeAnn's, Aidan is the one who informed the Underwoods via their campaign manager that their rival, New York Governor Will Conway, was using (fictional) search engine Pollyhop to target voters. While not strictly speaking illegal, targeting voters in such a manner is ethically murky at best — and a huge advantage in a political campaign. Not to be outdone in the "ethically murky" department, the Frank got permission to use domestic surveillance under the guise of the threat from ICO (an ISIS-like terrorist organization).
That's where Aidan comes in… again. As a data scientist, he's the man who sifts through the mountains of metadata resulting from Frank's domestic surveillance — ostensibly looking for signs of any imminent attack on American soil. Of course, we're talking about the Underwoods here, so what they're really hired Aidan to do is, well, pretty much anything that will help them win the election. Though this misuse of data is highly illegal, they were able to talk Aidan into it because having such unlimited access to such massive amounts of data is pretty much any data scientist's dream.
That's all well and good, but what specifically can a data scientist do with such information? Well, for example, we saw Aidan use Frank's domestic surveillance data to pull the names of thousands of people all over the country affected by gun violence. The Underwoods were then able to use this collated information to make targeted phone calls of Claire's impassioned anti-gun message, resulting in 84,000 calls to congresspeople in just 24 hours in support of the First Lady's gun legislation.
That's not the most nefarious use of data science, either. The surveillance also gives Aidan the ability to directly access specific targets' personal information, like when Frank asks LeAnn to have the data scientist tap into Conway's cell phone. For her part, LeAnn is horrified to hear the President make such an illegal request over the phone and Conway's call goes un-tapped. But who wants to bet that this request — and Aidan's role in the Underwoods' campaign — becomes a major part of Season 4's endgame? Frank's precarious house of cards has to start collapsing at some point, right?
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